By Msgr. Steven J. Aguggia, JCL
The Church has always valued and upheld the teaching of the Lord regarding the sanctity of marriage, a lifelong covenant of love between a man and a woman.
When marriages fail, however, it is a tragedy for everyone concerned.
Validity of Consent
Often people seek to put their lives in order and realize that, in fact, what they thought was a true marriage was not.
In order to help people, the annulment process in which a marriage is investigated to determine the validity of the consent of the couple was developed by the Church. This process has undergone many changes over time.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has promulgated new norms for this annulment process. In many ways, this is in anticipation of the Year of Mercy that he has proclaimed.
By simplifying and accelerating the annulment process, the Holy Father has acknowledged that many people yearn to experience the mercy of the Lord by seeking a declaration of the nullity of their marriage, a marriage which was null from the start, and beginning a new life.
This reform of the process is not to favor the nullity of marriage but rather to speed the process for the declaration of nullity if, indeed, that is the truth of the situation.
What sorts of changes are involved? Here are the main points:
First, the current process has required an automatic second review of the case for an annulment but, according to the new process, that second review has been eliminated, thereby reducing the time factor.
Second, in cases where the case for nullity is extremely clear, a shorter process has been introduced. Such cases will be referred to the bishop for a judgment. The bishop is the one who acts as the guarantor of unity in the expression of Catholic faith and discipline.
Finally, the Holy Father exhorts the conferences of bishops in various countries to ensure that the process is readily available to people.
In the Diocese of Brooklyn, no one is ever denied their right to petition for a declaration of the nullity of their marriage. The relatively low fee which is asked of the petitioner does not, by any means, cover all the expenses involved in the process.
However, if someone should have financial difficulties, reductions in the fee are routinely given on a case by case basis. Again, the lack of funds is never an issue when it comes to justice in the Church and experiencing the mercy of Christ.
The Tribunal in the Diocese of Brooklyn has always been available to the people of God. Those who work in The Tribunal understand their work to be an important ministry and value the opportunity to be bearers of the mercy of Jesus.
No one has been or will be denied experiencing the mercy of the Lord because of finances or other difficult burden, which we could help to lighten.
It is our sincere hope that these new norms, which will become effective on Dec. 8, 2015, will further expand the experience of the mercy which comes from Jesus Christ.
Msgr. Steven J. Aguggia, JCL, is the judicial vicar of the Diocese of Brooklyn, and pastor of St. Margaret parish, Middle Village.